Category Archives: What I’m Reading

Terse Book Review – This Is Orson Welles, by Peter Bogdanovich (and some other guy)

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If Hitchcock/Truffaut is the gold standard of the penetrating director-on-director interview book — think of the brain-trust there, with the man who made the absolutely perfect Jules et Jim picking the brain of the man who made the absolutely perfect Psycho — then This Is Orson Welles is clearly the silver standard.

At all times throughout the book Orson Welles seems intent on dispelling all myths about him and come across as just a humble guy struggling along in the service of his art and for the most part it works.  And even though he became a punch line for appearing in wine commercials later in life, there’s something truly endearing about a man who was willing to use every last dollar he had to make his own films and didn’t care where he got the dollars from and the dreck he had to appear in to get it.  If nothing else, you have to respect his dedication.

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Terse Book Review – The Shining, by Stephen King

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As of now, I’m only a Stephen King fan.  I used to be a super-fan, but then his quality in the nineties and early-aught’s basically took a nosedive and I stopped reading the new material.  Couldn’t get into Insomnia, couldn’t get into Rose Madder, finished Lisey’s Story and The Cell, but basically thought they both sucked.  Even the newest work, which was been great, has it’s weak spots — I hated the endings of both Under The Dome and 11/22/63.

All in all, I’d say I’m a super-fan of the early work, pretty much everything up to The Dark Halfexcluding The Dark Tower series, which I find dull.

I’m pretty well disdainful of the middle work — except Dolores Claiborne, which is fabulous.

I’m merely a fan of anything from Bag of Bones onward, recognizing some is good, some is bad, and some is spotty.

That being said, revisiting The Shining after so many years away from it, I was hoping it’d be better — I hoped it’d be as good as my memory wanted it to be.  Unfortunately, at this point, I love Kubrick’s movie and — here comes a bit of Stephen King sacrilege — wish King wrote that book, not the one the mini-series was made from.  Sadly, my wish has not been granted.

(As an aside — at this length, this probably doesn’t qualify as a ‘Terse’ review does it?)

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Terse Book Review – Josh Hartnett Definitely Wants To Do This, by Bruce Beresford

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I don’t know what it is, but I find the production journals – in this case, it’s more pre-production than production – of director’s fascinating.  Especially when they’re as candid and open as this.

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Terse Book Review – Nosferatu, by Paul Monette

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Ooh, let’s do a fill in the blank review for this one:  Nosferatu the novelization is to Nosferatu the Werner Herzog movie as Natural Born Killers the novelization is to _____________________ the movie.

Is the answer:

(a) Platoon

(b) Pulp Fiction

(c) Natural Born Killers

(d) None of the above.

Be sure to double check your work.

(As an aside, I happened to stumble across this in John King’s Used Books in Detroit a few months back.  I’d never been there before but given the general jumble of the books in the building, and the fact they have a gajillion books, the hour or so I spent in there before the wife and kids had enough of it, was not nearly long enough to do any real digging.)

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The Reflecting Skin, dir. by Philip Ridley

Somewhere, I read an assessment of this movie as being Days of Heaven as directed by David Lynch.  I don’t normally like to rest on the reviews of others when writing my own, but sometimes, when what somebody else said is so perfect, why bother trying to top it?

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Terse Book Reviews – ‘Salem’s Lot by Stephen King

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Really made me wonder if vampirism is just a metaphor for homosexuality?  Or outsider-ness in general.

(Incidentally, the copy of this book above is not my first copy, it’s my second.  I actually picked this up at a salvation army for a buck and would you believe it but this is actually a first printing paperback.  What’s curious is that because it’s a first printing paperback it not only pre-dates one of King’s children, but also pre-dates his super-stardom.  After all, in later years the ‘Stephen King’ name would go prominently on the cover of all his work.  Clearly, with this printing, he hadn’t yet achieved that ubiquity.)

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Terse Book Reviews – Miami Blues by Charles Willeford

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A great unsung crime novel marred only by occasionally clunky dialog/exposition.  Ripe for rediscovery.  Also a great movie.

(As a note, the afterward of the story includes a notice of the main character winning a baking contest in which she is identified as Mrs. Frank Mansifield.  For those aware of the Willeford oeuvre, they already know Frank Mansfield was the protagonist of Willeford’s earlier novel, Cockfighter.  Glad to see Frank Mansfield managed to find himself love.)

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Terse Book Reviews – The Auctioneer

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Most fiction requires a suspension of disbelief – zombies, Frankenstein, Dracula, et al.  Few require a suspension of logic.  This book does.  I don’t like that.

Incidentally, you can buy my copy here.

(As a note: I discovered this book through this blog.  If you like vintage horror fiction, it’s a great place to be.)

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Terse Book Reviews – The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

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Another ‘classic’ that disappoints.  Done better by later craftsmen.  And, oh yeah – the movie was better.

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Terse Book Reviews – Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris

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As good as Sedaris’ performance of the Santaland Diaries is for This American Life on NPR, it bums me out because it still leaves out lots of funny material.

(Note:  I actually didn’t really read all of Holiday’s On Ice by David Sedaris, I actually only read the Santaland Diaries.  In fairness, I’ve read the whole book before and was only coming back for a holiday re-read.)

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